Living the high life in real luxury

IT IS aimed at marking a new high in airline luxury and bringing added glamour to flying for even the most jaded of VIP jetsetters.

Private cabins featuring sliding doors, double beds and a wardrobe were unveiled yesterday in the first passenger-carrying A380 superjumbo.

Twelve of the Singapore Airlines "suites" are included in the 471-seat aircraft, which will operate between Singapore and Sydney from next week. There will be 60 business-class seats and 399 in economy.

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A second double-decker plane is due to be delivered by French-based manufacturers Airbus in February, which will fly on the Heathrow-Singapore route.

Passengers will pay 1,991 for a suite, one-way between Singapore to Sydney, compared with 1,732 in first class in the airline's Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

Economy-class passengers in the A380 would pay 320 for the journey.

The suites include separate beds rather than fold-down seats, 23in LCD screens, Givenchy furnishings and food by chefs including Gordon Ramsay.

Singapore Airlines describe them as "a class beyond first". Adjoining beds can even be brought together to create a double.

Take a video tour of the new Singapore Airlines Super-Jumbo here >>

Yap Kim Wah, the airline's senior vice-president for product and services, said: "Customers can look forward to a flight with an unprecedented level of personal space in their very own private cabin in the sky."

Kenny Kemp, author of Flight of the Titans, about the battle between the A380 and its Boeing 787 rival, said: "This is a new standard of luxury which gives the A380 a great boost for top-tier flying."

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Mr Kemp said rival airlines which have also ordered the aircraft would now strive to match Singapore's cabin quality.

Qantas, one of Singapore's rivals, will receive its first A380 next August and has already unveiled its own cabin designs, which include 14 private suites.

Mr Kemp added that the first flight next Thursday - where seats were auctioned for up to 50,000 - would mark a milestone for Airbus, which has been dogged by delays and scandal surrounding the aircraft.

The first plane is nearly two years late because of a series or production problems, including the complex wiring of its entertainment system. The setbacks wiped out more than 3.4 billion in forecast profits.

News of further delays to the programme made public in June last year knocked 26 per cent off the share price of Airbus' parent company and led to the resignations of three senior executives.

To compound this, allegations emerged this month of "massive insider trading" by senior managers in the run-up to the announcement - claims which Airbus has denied.

However, rival Boeing has not had its troubles to seek, announcing a six-month delay to its smaller 787 aircraft last week.

The Airbus will start regular service on Sunday, 28 October. The world's largest passenger plane can be configured to carry 853 passengers, all in economy class.

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However, most airlines are expected to take advantage of the extra space and carry fewer people in more luxury.

Sixteen airlines, including Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, have ordered 165 planes.

Airbus said that compared to the Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet, the A380 is 25 per cent quieter on landing, burns 12 per cent less fuel and produces 17 per cent fewer carbon dioxide emissions.

The superjumbo's wings are designed and built by Airbus UK at its plants in Filton, near Bristol, and Broughton in north Wales.